Experts By Experience Board members during last week’s meeting at Dusty Knuckle café, discussing initial ideas for Switchback’s new strategic plan for 2022 onwards.
This summer marks four years since Switchback launched our Experts By Experience (EBE) board – a group of current and former Trainees who meet regularly to discuss and shape all aspects of Switchback’s work from our programme development to campaigning for change in the justice system. Check out the new page on our website dedicated to our EBE Board here.
Keeping Trainees at the heart of everything we do is Switchback’s most important value. Since it’s launch in 2017, Switchback’s EBE board has played an increasingly vital role in realising this value, growing in size, scope and influence. Currently the Board is open to any current or former Switchback Trainee who is interested in taking part and meets month, with 22 participants in 2020.
We have a strong core of regular long-term members, as well as a diverse mix of more recent prison leavers. In the past year the group discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from experiences of racism in the justice system, to the pressures of modern masculinity, to Switchback’s response to the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Prison leavers, especially young adults and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, are too often excluded from debate and policymaking. Together, the EBE is helping to change that.
Despite Covid-19 preventing us from meeting in person, the EBE Board has continued to meet virtually and go from strength to strength – deciding to increase its meeting frequency. During the pandemic Switchback’s EBE members played a central role in deciding our campaign priorities and in the development of our new six-week programme, Foundation for Stability.
Members of the Board also helped develop and deliver our campaign to raise the discharge grant, hosted officials from the Ministry of Justice to help shape the £20m Prison Leavers Project, and featured on BBC London News and BBC Politics London raising awareness about homelessness and barriers to employment faced by prison leavers. To strengthen the links between EBE and Trustee Board, last year we launched a new role of Board Adviser, filled by EBE member Eshan, who also became Switchback’s first Policy Intern.
In June 2021 the EBE Board finally met again in person – for the first time since March 2020 – to kick off discussions about Switchback’s new strategic plan for 2022 and beyond. In this way, we are ensuring that the voice of young men we support is meaningfully involved in developing our plans from the very start.
As well as being a vital resource for Switchback, membership of the EBE Board can also provide an opportunity for Trainees to have valuable conversations and gain new skills, confidence and knowledge. EBE members often tell us they appreciate the chance to share their experiences, hear from each other and form opinions on a variety of topics rarely discuss elsewhere.
Here’s a few recent quotes from EBE members, reflecting on their experience on the Board:
“It’s really nice to see your own quotes online, and to know you’re actually making a difference. I definitely don’t have these sort of chats with my mates. I don’t usually think about these things until we discuss them, so it’s nice to even find out my own opinions. And hearing feedback about the difference we’re making, like helping to get more funding for housing, feels fulfilling.”
James, Bar Worker and Switchback EBE Member
“I never otherwise have these conversations with anyone. And on top of that, I feel these meetings keep me on track, it keeps me in check to have to come and have these conversations. It’s a reminder to stay out of trouble, stay on track, stay positive and stick to your goals – all that good stuff.”
Caleeb, Switchback EBE Member
“There’s not a lot of people that can say they discuss these issues. No one I know talks about these things. It’s great to have a group where you can talk about something with substance, that’s meaningful, and discussions that will lead to change, especially if we’re working with the government.”
Guellor, business owner and Switchback EBE Member
To find out more about Switchback’s Experts by Experience Board or to discuss working together, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.